Saturday, June 7, 2008

a letter to humidity

Dear Humidity.

I love you.

Yes humidity, I know this now. I have learned my lesson. I'm sorry about how I thought of you when I was away. I smugly thought you were awful. When I moved out to the Pacific Northwest, the lack of you made me feel like I won something. Like I had escaped your pit stains and soaked shirt backs. I had cheated my fate. I was an ass.

You know why? You know what no one told me? They didn’t tell me that a serious lack of humidity means a serious lack of moisture in general. That the nightly summer thunderstorms I’d known my whole life barely came around once or twice a month out there. And when they did come in Idaho, it wasn’t a gentle rolling rumble – it was downright terrifying. Those storms were dangerous. They had wicked winds, trees falling down and power flashing off. Pennsylvania felt like a rainforest in comparisons. And east Tennessee…. Paradise.

Remember the good times H? Remember Forth of July 2006 when you and Heather and I hiked those twelve godawful miles to Ramsey’s Cascades and you were so on it we drank 2 liters of water, each, one way? Or remember Danny Ord’s thirteenth birthday when we hiked up Glen Onoko Falls in Jim Thorpe and I was so embarrassed by the sweat I sat with my arms safely at my sides during the whole cake and soda bit back at his house? How about that night in college a bunch of us “broke into” Gettysburg and were asked to leave the Little Roundtop on the grounds it was "dark" (garbage logic, I say) that night was so muggy, but Devil’s Den was so busting with fireflies it was like a discothèque. I know. I have it on video.

You’re part of the Appalachians I’ve spent so much time in, from Confederate hollers to Yankee hollows. Hell, you put the smoke in Smoky. You’re what makes summer summer. You’re why I pray for fall. You make everything green and pretty. You’re a real Christmas angel. I am sorry I was such a bitch. Take me back.

thank you,

Thursday, June 5, 2008

big day!

Big day on the farm. Today, was the first of many nights eating off. Which is what I call eating food at home you grew off your own land. (It sounds dirty, but don't go there. ) It's not eating out, and it's more exciting than the dull frozen-pizza-eating in. So... eating off is the phrase i made up. And tonight I ate off my first garden-grown meal of the season; a giant three-lettuce salad. The picture above shows some iceberg, Buttercrunch and Romaine Nisaa helped me plant a few weeks ago, and they were all ripe for the plucking. The best part? Even with a full colander - I barely put a dent in the crop. It was delicous, crisp, crunchy and I could actually taste each leaf. When you're used to your work cafeteria salad's uniform taste, eating off felt fancy.

I also got some rhubarb off the stalk, which I didn't plant but happily harvest since it's there in the yard. I baked it up into a giant strawberry rhubarb pie for tomorrow's potluck at work. I also whipped up a blueberry pie but feel a serious lack of confidence in them both. When it comes to apple pie, I feel I deserve my praise, but these guys... they won't be worth a fork of that apple. Oh well. The only way to get better at a pie is to keep baking it and cleaning ovens. So maybe by the end of summer, I'll have some decent strawberry rhubarb to share. Till then, I'll collect a bunch of stalks to freeze.

Also, and not to be discounted, for the first time in Cold Antler-Vermont History (drumroll please....), all eight of my hens laid an egg on the same day! I came home from work to eight perfect little eggs in the nest, each slightly unique to their neighbor. And Dove's blue token right in the middle. Usually I get half a dozen a day, sometimes seven and sometimes four. Usually I keep 6-eight eggs for myself each week and then sell the rest to co-wrokers, neighbors and a local cafe in Bennington. Today all of my girls were kicking it. Rufus Wainwright and I both glowed with pride, but for very different reasons.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


This morning I rolled out of bed, put the percolater on the stove, andspent half an hour hauling water to the garden, feeding chickens, checking on the rabbits, giving the bees new sugar water, and walking the dogs. The usual stuff I do every morning. But Sunday I woke up in hotel room in Los Angelos, in bed without a single dog hair on it. While the city was a nice change of pace, I prefer my beds sprinkled with the occasional dog hair, thank you very much.

BEA was something else...a weekend in the bright shiny city. Los Angeles is a sunny, hot, tanned and cement-filled mecca. A huge change from the soft rolling green hills of Southern Vermont. I had no idea the show would be such a big deal - halls and halls of a giant convention center filled with publishers and their wares. If you could sell it in a bookstore, it was there.

I met some other Storey authors and got to sign advanced copies of Made From Scratch. My first ever book signinng Which, had a nice humble stream of people that came to get their copies signed. It didn't helo that I was siginig next to Salman Rushdie's (who's line was out the door) but hey, some of his folks overflowed into my line, and how many people can say they got to hang out by Rushdie? On the other side of me was the guy who wrote "thirteen reasons why" which I knew nothing about, but apparently if you're thirteen it's the biggest thing since Judy Blume if she was hipper.

People who did come to my signing were a mixed lot. Some said they thought my homesteading book would be a lot of help to people who will be forced to live more locally when gas hits a peak price. Others just said their dream was to run off to a farm and saw my adventures with chickens and snap peas as a romantic escpae from regular life. I think a lot of people get the perception that I quit my job in Knoxville to live pay-check free in Idaho. While that would've been amazing... but truth be told, I worked a 9-5 job the whole time I was living my simple life in Sandpoint (which the book explains plainly). It may not be as romantic or cool, but proves that homesteading isn't just for survivalists or farmers. I want people to know that anyone, anywhere can start living off their own land (or, um, apartment). Which is what I do, and what the book is about.

My brother was with me. He is planning on moving down to LA in a few years, or sooner, and decided to join me in downtown Los Angeles while I was there. He wandered around the Book Expo, meeting comic book authors and some horror writers and then when the hullaballo of the Expo was winding down we jumped on the subway (yes, LA has a subway) and toured Hollywood. We visited the Chinese Theatre, a wonderfully campywax museum, ate pizza by the slice, and were even asked to take a stress test.* What could be a more perfectly cliche Hollywodod afternoon then that?

I had a big time. I got to kick up surf in the Pacific ocean, eat amazing meals, drink and laugh in good company, play a little fiddle, and feel more important than I am for two whole days. It really was a vacation, and my first ever book signing. Also, my best book signing. there's a chance I might get to travel more for the book in the future, which will be welcomed. But I can't tell you how great it was to wake up, roll over and kiss jazz between the ears, and walk out with a hoodie to feed the hens. I like the world out there very much. But I like my world in hollow between Bald and Bear mountain even more.
*believe in aliens and angry volcano feelings

Monday, June 2, 2008

back home, more soon